Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Design for Discipleship: A Primer for Disciple Makers

A year ago, I mentioned working on an article (actually, a transferable concept) about discipleship. I now recognize, I never posted its completion.

So, here it is:

Design for Discipleship: A Primer in Disciple Makers

There is a pdf sample that can be downloaded for review.

"Bait & Switch" - Does the End Justify the Means?

Yesterday I listened with special interest to the Nov 6th edition of This American Life, entitled "Bait and Switch".

During the 2nd Act, "Raw Sex", host Ira Glass (who identifies himself in this segment as an atheist) interviews two personalities regarding "bait and switch" evangelism. Dave Dickerson shares two experiences with Campus Crusade for Christ (I take it as a newly involved student, though the time-frame is never indicated). Jim Henderson discusses "doable evangelism" -- i.e., noticing others, listening to others and ____ (I forget the third element. Ah, my aging memory)--as a alternative to bait and switch approaches.

Three quick observations:

1. I appreciate and respect Ira Glass. He did an excellent job in the interviews, probing and exposing, yet not bashing. He is, of course, an entertaining radio personality and this edition of This American Life is enjoyable and thoughtful.

2. Dickerson's interview is a good challenge to us who witness. How do we engage others openly, capturing their interest and communicating the gospel message with relevance, without slipping into the ditch of "bait and switch"? [Note: The integrity of surveys was one of the reasons we framed QuEST (Questions Exploring Students Thinking) as, not a survey, but an interview that would yield helpful information to be used for a variety of national purposes (which it has.) No bait and switch in this.] But this discussions should also cause us to reflect upon how others are experiencing our outreach efforts--whether young believers involved with us or the audience that we reach out to.

3. Henderson's work at normalizing relationships with those who do not (yet) know Christ and engaging them appropriately has been helpful for many. But I was most intrigued by Glass' probing if it doesn't slide into the other ditch -- all relationship, no message. Given Glass' self-disclosed unbelief, he astutely exposes relationships-only approach as "all bait, no switch." Fascinating.

But taken as a whole, the interview serves as a clear reminder that as witnesses and as those who equip and lead others in witness, we must be sensitive and appropriate with our audience, while being faithful to our Lord and his message and mission.

An excellent expression of the balance is found in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's "Evangelism Code of Ethics", which includes this:

We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the role and goal of the Christian evangelist. However, we do not believe that this justifies any means to fulfill that end. Hence, we disavow the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals which bypass a person's critical faculties, play on psychological weaknesses, undermine relationship with family or religious institutions, or mask the true nature of Christian conversion.

While respecting the individual integrity, intellectual honesty, and academic freedom of all other believers and skeptics, we seek to proclaim Christ openly. We reveal our own identity and purpose, our theological positions and sources of information and will not be intentionally misleading. Respect for human integrity means no false advertising, no personal aggrandizement from successfully persuading others to follow Jesus, and no overly emotional appeals which minimize reason and evidence.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Artwork of the Human Soul

Artwork has been defined as visual representations. This raises the question, representations of what? Here are two intriguing images of the human soul, by Ryan Alexander for Leeds Counseling.

What are the implications as we engage in others' lives and enter their spiritual journeys?

Thanks to Creativity for sharing these images.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Students' Taste in Advertising

What does this generation of students respond to in advertising? A column by Dan Coates for Engage:GenY entitled "Ad Infinitum" gives us the answer. This isn't highly surprising, but helpful to have summarized.
  1. Humor
  2. Good music
  3. Very practical information
  4. Meaningful & relevant experiences
If this is what they prefer in advertising, what does it suggest about other media messaging?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

College Students & Technology: Totally Wired

Here are insights from the Center of Media Research report, "Totally Wired", based on Alloy Media + Marketing's 9th annual College Explorer Survey:

Technology is third in student discretionary spending, behind food and autos.

Students are spending twice as much time on their computers (5 hrs/day) as compared to television viewing (2.5 hrs/day). Cellular devices come in third (2.4 hrs/day) and MP3 at 1.3 hrs/day. The encouraging news (in my opinion), is gaming devices are only .75 hrs/day. But together that adds up to 9.5 hours of media intake per day. Now if you are good at math, you say, "Wait, doesn't it all add up to almost 12 hours/day?" Ah... you forget. Students love to multi-task. So the 12 hours are accomplished in 9.5. Aren't you excited about the 2.5 hours saved?

The conclusion: Andy Sawyer, SVP, Media Services for Alloy Media + Marketing, concludes that "... advancements in technology have clearly given students increasing control and ease... to socialize, communicate and be entertained on demand..."

"Socialize, communicate & be entertained on demand..." Hmm... What a life...

Evangelicals - Living Up to our Name?

Philip Yancey wrote a final column for the back page of Christianity Today, O Evangelicos! His final line:
Some of my friends believe we should abandon the word evangelical. I do not. I simply yearn for us to live up to the meaning of our name.
What do you think?

Resources for Exploring

How do you engage in spiritual conversations? How do discover where someone is spiritually?

In the CoJourner paradigm, the four roles we can play in another person's spiritual journey are:
  • Explorer: to discover where are person in spiritually
  • Guide: to show the way to Jesus
  • Builder: to construct ways over or around the obstacles that keep people from Jesus
  • Mentor: to encourage the person on in the spiritual journey
The Explorer is one of the two roles (along with the Builder) that people request the most help for. Over the last number of years, we have been developing and sharpening an Explorer toolkit. It currently features four primary "tools".

Short-films are the most media sophisticated explorer tool. Utilizing 7-minute or less films, students use their iPhone, iPods, DVD players or laptops to show films with spiritual themes and discuss their implications.

Soularium continues with the creative. A set of 50 photographic images are the basis for dialogue regarding life, God and spiritual experience. This has quickly become the most popular Exploring tool on US college campuses (and is spreading rapidly internationally, as well.) To explore answers that are commonly given visit

Perspective is a card based worldview interview we are currently field testing and refining. It explores a person's view of God, humanity, meaning of life, Jesus and source of spiritual knowledge. (Thank you, Barry!) I did two Perspective conversations last week at the University of Chicago - Illinois. Fascinating!

QuEST (Questions Exploring Students Thinking) is the most left-brained tool. It is a simple five-question interview. Translation - it involves only asking five questions & listening. The questions can be used formally or informally. (If used formally, the results should be submitted throught the QuEST website.)

Asking questions and listening is the fundamental skills of a good explorer. Creative media -- whether short-films, photography, cards or questionnaires -- can help make that easier for you and for your audience!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Gospel: Reading "Along" or "Across" the Bible

Wednesday morning, I had the privilege of visiting Dr. D. A. Carson. I studied Greek, Greek Exegesis and Pauline Epistles under Dr. Carson years (ok, decades) ago. But this conversation focused on The Gospel Coalition. I must say, he is very enthusiastic about this subject!

Afterward, I returned to the Gospel Coalition website to explore the growing wealth of resources. I was struck by the Theological Vision for Ministry. While the whole document is worthy of reflection, one element relates to previous posts here re: the gospel itself.

What is the essence of the gospel? How do we best read the Bible in understanding the gospel? Here are the two contrasting (or complimenting) approaches (as delineated by the GC):
  • Reading “along” the whole Bible. To read along the whole Bible is to discern the single basic plot–line of the Bible as God’s story of redemption (e.g., Luke 24:44) as well as the themes of the Bible (e.g., covenant, kingship, temple) that run through every stage of history and every part of the canon, climaxing in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, the gospel appears as creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It brings out the purpose of salvation, namely, a renewed creation... [God] providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.
  • Reading “across” the whole Bible. To read across the whole Bible is to collect its declarations, summons, promises, and truth–claims into categories of thought (e.g., theology, Christology, eschatology) and arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches summarily (e.g., Luke 24:46–47). In this perspective, the gospel appears as God, sin, Christ, faith. It brings out the means of salvation, namely the substitutionary work of Christ and our responsibility to embrace it by faith... Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
After reflecting on what happens when believers focus on one or the other exclusively, the "Vision" concludes:
  • We do not believe that in best practice these two ways of reading the Bible are at all contradictory, even though today, many pit them against each other. We believe that on the contrary the two, at their best, are integral for grasping the meaning of the biblical gospel. The gospel is the declaration that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has come to reconcile individuals by his grace and renew the whole world by and for his glory. (Emphasis mine)
That last line is a nice (concise) statement of the "essence of the gospel."

Which do you prefer to communicate in evangelism? The storyline gospel (such as, Life@Large) or the gospel outline (such as, Knowing God Personally)?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The World is Just Awesome

Having just posted the Guiness take on Creation, it seems only fitting to follow with the Discovery Channel's "The World is Just Awesome." Sing along with..."I Love the Whole World".

Hmmm... There seems to be a recurring theme in these commercials. Wonder what it tells of about humanity? A little Anthropology, or maybe, some Cosmology?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creation - A Brewer's Take

I find special delight in short film, video, and other artistic offerings, especially as they create space for conversation, reflection and spiritual journey. Commercials are one genre I keep watch on. I came across this one today. A brewer's (that is, Guiness') take on bringing the world to life:

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is Evangelism Worth Doing Badly?

I am perusing Brad J. Kallenberg's Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age (2002). While the insights of the book are many, I was struck in the end with this:
For anything worth doing is worth doing badly--until one can do it better. And one can become a skillful evangelist only be beginning poorly, but beginning nonetheless. Only one who begins, albeit poorly, has the hope of improving. (Page 124)
The insight caught me, transporting me back four decades ago, to when I was doing evangelism poorly. (I trust I have improved some, though there are times I doubt I have as much as might be assumed.) Nevertheless, I remember walking down a resident hall, sticking my head in the door of a class friend to say hi. The Christian worker I happened to be with at the time asked my friend if I had ever shown him "The Four Spiritual Laws". Gulp. I wasn't prepared for that question to be asked. When my friend said no, the staff member suggested I do so--now. Me? Ummm... Did I get that right?

I stumbled and stammered as I read through the booklet, asking the questions that were already printed there, feeling awkward and embarrassed. And then we got to the prayer. My friend said, yes, he wanted to receive Christ. And I led him in prayer.

To be honest, I don't know what really happened. Did he understand? Did he truly believe? Did Jesus Christ enter his life and forgive his sin? Did the Holy Spirit birth him into new life and the body of Christ? I don't know.

What I do know is that "I did evangelism poorly." But I did it as best I could then and I continue to do the best I can now. I am still learning. I am still growing. And I am still having conversations. Maybe still poorly, but not as poorly as I did before.